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International book fair is huge this year

For the first time in the international book fair’s 14-year history, the Culture Ministry decided to get involved. They made some major changes.

First, the fair is now free. And the other big change is that the event will be bigger than it’s ever been before.

In addition to the 40,000 books on sale, the fair in downtown San José will include more than 200 chats and workshops from Costa Rican and international cartoonists, narrative journalists, poets, playwrights, photographers and acclaimed authors of Spanish literature. Symposium topics will range from manga to erotic poetry.

Artistic director Karina Salguero said she wanted the fair to celebrate storytelling in all its forms. Attendees don’t need to be connoisseurs of Spanish-language literature to enjoy the festivities nor do they have to pay for a glimpse inside. The Culture Ministry, working with the Costa Rican Book Chamber, invested ₡50 million ($10,000) in the 10-day event that begins Friday and continues through Sept. 1.

The majority of the events will center around the Antigua Aduana building. Independent publishers from throughout Latin America will have their own space in the adjacent Casa del Cuño. Grupo Nacion has created a space for children’s books and has programmed literary activities for kids. Local bands will close out each night with a concert in the plaza outside the Antigua Aduana.

The Espacio Cultural Carmen Naranjo and the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo (Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, or MADC), two more cultural institutions in central San José, also will accommodate book fair activities. One of the most hyped events of the first weekend – an exhibition of the work of Lourdes Grobet – will take place at the art museum. The Mexican photographer is regarded for her photos of the country’s legendary Lucha Libre fighters. She will speak on photographing the masked wrestlers Friday at 3 p.m. at the La Aduana Theater. The MADC will exhibit her photos from Aug. 24 to Sept. 28.

Grobet will be one of 48 Mexican artists attending the book fair on behalf of the Mexican government’s cultural institute. Fair organizers chose Mexico as the “invited guest” and a pavilion at the Aduana will offer some 6,000 titles from the country. Other Mexican guests include filmmakers, musicians, historians, newspaper cartoonists and poets whom will recite poems in Nahuatl, a language with 1.5 million speakers today but first spoken by the Aztecs in the 7th Century.

In total, 73 international artists (coming from countries like Guatemala, Chile, Nicaragua and Spain) will take part in the book fair.

Several of the visiting authors have had their work translated into English. Mexican novelist Mario Bellatin (“Beauty Salon”) received a rave profile in the New York Times in 2009. Puerto Rican Luis Negrón’s had his debut short story collection (“Mundo Cruel”) translated into English in March.

For a full list of the activities and their times, view the agenda here (en español): 

14th International Book Fair
Cost: Free
Dates and Time: Aug. 23–Sept. 1; 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Where: Activities take place throughout the day at the Antigua Aduana, Contemporary Art & Design Museum and the Espacio Cultural Carmen Naranjo
Activities: 40,000 books will be on sale. The event also includes workshops, concerts, theater shows, movies and symposiums with international authors, poets, editorial cartoonists and more
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